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Wall Street Operative Geithner Rebuffed in Berlin on Mission to Make World Safe for Derivatives

Webster G. Tarpley
TARPLEY.net
May 28, 2010

On the most important stop of last week’s desperate mission to make the world safe for derivatives, US Treasury Secretary Geithner has been dealt a decisive rebuff. Geithner’s obvious attempt to sabotage the recent prohibition enacted by the German government against naked credit default swaps (among the most toxic of derivatives) was rejected in Berlin on Thursday by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble.

At their joint press conference, Geithner and Schäuble could hardly hide the atmosphere of tension and hostility, even though both were determined to mask the clash for domestic political reasons. A Handelsblatt blog pointed to the language of mutual dislike, and this newspaper headlined that the transatlantic conflict was escalating. The Washington Post published a photograph on Friday, May 28, 2010 showing the German minister scowling at the feckless featherweight Geithner. Geithner assured the journalists that there was a “broad agreement on regulatory reform,” but in reality there was no such common ground.

Schäuble has now emerged as the strongman in the German cabinet, due precisely to his willingness to take the point in the fight against derivatives. “Ban Bolsters Schäuble’s Sway,” headlined the Wall Street Journal. German officials are reported to be increasingly dismissive of the carping criticism coming from other countries which have failed to act against the world derivatives plague. The Germans know exactly what they are doing, Schäuble stressed: “We have done our national homework,” he added.

It is abundantly clear that Germany is determined to act unilaterally against speculation, especially in the form of derivatives. This means maintaining the current ban on naked credit default swaps, and supplementing this with a ban on naked short sales of German stocks, euro-denominated government bonds, and of the euro itself.

Geithner, as always, is operating behind a mask of duplicity. During the press conference, he did not directly address the German ban on naked credit default swaps which has caused such consternation in the City of London, Wall Street, the US Treasury, and the Federal Reserve, where derivatives are regarded as sacrosanct. Geithner also failed to address the question of a Tobin tax or securities sales tax on speculative financial turnover, which the German government is attempting to push through the ponderous elephantine Brussels bureaucracy of the European Union. Geithner also did not talk about the regulations largely targeting the Anglo-American hedge fund wolfpack which are also being developed in the Byzantine corridors of the eurogarchy.

These are matters of extremely serious strategic conflict. As the Washington Post noted on May 28, “… differences have emerged on the host of issues between the United States and Europe… some European officials – including Schäuble – want to tax all financial transactions for a fund that might be dedicated to crisis resolution or that might go into each government’s general account.” Given the increasing pressure on national budgets, it is of course imperative that the revenue generated by a Tobin tax be kept in-country to prevent the savage dismantling of the social safety net which is increasingly demanded by the financiers and their agents and dupes. Under no circumstances should these funds be kept in a fund which will inevitably be used for further bailouts of bankrupt zombie banks. As the Washington Post further commented: “Europe wants to more strictly clamp down on what it views as speculation, while … US officials speak more frequently about the risk of stifling innovation if regulations become too rigid.” Modern societies need innovation in the area of scientific discoveries that can lead to new technologies, and do not require any more variations of the available brands of derivatives cyanide, arsenic, and strychnine. The world has had enough of toxic derivatives to last us until the end of the century and beyond.

Geithner’s true intentions can be read from his systematic sabotage and gutting of the financial reform bill recently passed by the U.S. Senate. The most important feature of this bill was the ban on derivatives speculation by commercial banks proposed by Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas. This would have partially restored the blanket ban on most types of derivatives which was in force under the New Deal from 1936 through 1982 thank to the Commodities Exchange Act signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Geithner has attacked this provision, and is teaming up with Obama handler Rahm Emanuel to remove it during the upcoming House-Senate reconciliation process.

Geithner was also an active participant in the efforts to torpedo the McCain-Cantwell amendment, which would have restored the New Deal era Glass-Steagall law, which rigorously prevented commercial banks from engaging in stock jobbing and related forms of investment banking, including derivatives.

Geithner has also talked about stress tests for European banks. It should be recalled that the stress tests for US banks carried on last year under Geithner’s supervision were worse than useless, since they systematically excluded from consideration the main cause for bank insolvency in the current era – off-balance-sheet toxic derivatives. This blatant mockery should not be repeated in Europe.

As for the hedge fund hyenas, they are adamant about their intention to bring the crisis currently impacting the southern tier of the euro back home to the United States. In his New York Times article “Easy Money, Hard Truths,” David Einhorn, a leading hedge fund operator involved in the infamous February 8, 2010 Manhattan planning session for the current assault on Europe, is categorical in his forecast that the European crisis will happen here as well. To spare the American people endless and useless misery, it is imperative that we mobilize every legal and regulatory tool in the New Deal armory to put the hedge fund predators out of business while banning or taxing derivatives. The goal must be to prevent a needless national bankruptcy of this country and preserve the present constitutional system of representative government from the chaos and anarchy the speculators are eager to visit upon us.

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